Dos and don’ts for a good night’s sleep

August 20, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Good sleep is difficult to come by these days as we deal with life during a pandemic.

When high or persistent levels of stress are present, sleep is often one of the first areas of your life that may be impacted. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, sleep disturbance is the second most common symptom that an individual is under mental distress.

People tend to notice increased anxiety during periods of quiet or downtime — like bedtime — when we are no longer able to be distracted from thoughts and feelings of stress and worry. This results in trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, insomnia, interrupted sleep, or shallow, restless sleep due to the mind racing.

Lack of sleep leads to more anxious feelings and a whole host of other health issues. Good sleep hygiene can help you stay healthy by keeping your mind and body rested and strong.

Here are seven Do’s to improve your sleep hygiene:

  1. Keep a regular schedule. Get up at the same time every morning and get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis. Do this even on weekends and holidays. A regular wake time in the morning leads to regular times of sleep onset and helps to set your “biological clock.” Regular times for meals, medications, chores and other activities help keep the inner body clock running smoothly.

  2. Sleep only as much as you need to feel refreshed during the following day. Restricting your time in bed helps to deepen your sleep. Excessively long times in bed lead to fragmented and shallow sleep. Get up at your regular time the next day, no matter how little you slept.

  3. Train yourself to use the bedroom only for sleeping. Your bedroom should be where you go to sleep. This will help condition your brain to see bed as the place for sleeping. It is not a place to go when you are bored. Do not read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone or play cards in bed. If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of bed. Find something else to do that will help make you feel relaxed. If you can, do this in another room. Once you are sleepy again, go back to bed.

  4. Begin rituals that help you relax each night before bed. It is easier to fall asleep at night if you have bedtime “rituals.” These are things you do every night just before going to bed. This can include such things as a warm bath, light snack or a few minutes of reading. There are also a variety of podcasts and sleep/calming apps that you can use to help lull your mind to sleep.

  5. Make sure your bedroom is comfortable. Make your bedroom is quiet, dark and a little cool. Make sure it is free from light and noises. An easy way to remember this: your bedroom should remind you of a cave. While this may not sound romantic, it seems to work for bats. Bats are champion sleepers. They get about 16 hours of sleep each day.

  6. Put your clock under the bed or turn it so that you can’t see it. Clock watching may lead to frustration, anger and worry, which interfere with sleep.

  7. Put away electronics. Cell phones, laptops, tablets and television screens give off blue rays that stimulate your wake cycle by making your brain think it is daylight.

Here are seven Don'ts that can disrupt your sleep:

  1. Avoid taking naps. Staying awake during the day helps you to fall asleep at night. If you must nap, keep it short (less than an hour). Never take a nap after 3 p.m.

  2. Do not have any caffeine after lunch. Caffeinated beverages and foods can make it difficult to fall asleep, cause you to wake up during the night and cause a shallow sleep. Even caffeine early in the day can disrupt nighttime sleep. In general, it is a good idea to avoid excessive liquids of any kind in the evening.

  3. Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal near bedtime either. Eat regular meals throughout the day. A light snack at bedtime (especially carbohydrates) may help sleep but avoid greasy or “heavy” foods.

  4. Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy. If you are not sleepy at bedtime, leave the room and do something else. Read a book, listen to soft music or browse through a magazine. Find something relaxing to take your mind off worries about sleep. Avoid anything too stimulating (especially, cell phones, laptops and TV screens). This will help relax your body and distract your mind. Return to bed only when you are sleepy.

  5. Avoid drinking, smoking and pills. Do not have a beer, a glass of wine, or any other alcohol within six hours of your bedtime. Do not have a cigarette or any other source of nicotine before bedtime. Smoking may disturb sleep as nicotine is a stimulant. Avoid sleeping pills or use them cautiously. Most doctors do not prescribe sleeping pills for periods of more than three weeks. Remember, do not drink alcohol while taking sleeping pills.

  6. Avoid intense exercise before bedtime. While exercise makes it easier to get to sleep and to sleep deeply, schedule times so that they do not occur within 3-6 hours of when you intend to go to bed.

  7. Don’t take your problems to bed. Plan some time earlier in the evening for working on your problems or planning the next day’s activities. Worrying may interfere with initiating sleep and produce shallow sleep. Your bed is a place to rest, not a place to worry.

If you or a member of your family would benefit from working with a therapist, please contact Linden Oaks Behavioral Health at 630-305-5027 for a free, confidential behavioral health assessment.

Are you in need of a good night’s sleep? Explore sleep services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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